The inheritance you leave—that is the property you give to your heirs—isn’t the real legacy you’re leaving. This is true even if you’re passing on the business you worked your entire life to create. That being said, how you leave your property to your heirs just might become your legacy, whether or not that was your intention.
The decisions you make regarding what to leave behind and to whom, and how to divide your assets between your family members, are crucial, as The Wall Street Journal recently discussed.
Should you split all of your assets evenly? Should they be divided based on merit? What if one child is more successful than another—should they then be divided based on need? Do you think about the immediate generation, or the grandchildren? What if there is no balance?
These are the kinds of tough questions that only you can answer—to a point. In reality, after you’re gone there will be many people in your family with opinions and answers to offer about what you “would’ve wanted.” The challenge is to plan as you see fit, and for the reasons that you value, while preventing the kind of bickering that can come after a family member dies over real (or perceived) inequities in inheritance. The best way to accomplish this is to explain your considerations and your rationale to your family.
When it comes to communicating your reasons for the how of your estate plan, you might consider capturing your wishes on video. On the other hand, (and this is usually more helpful), consider having an open and ongoing dialogue with your family.
The choices you make and the inheritances you leave are very important, but what is often just as important is the meaning that is understood in how you leave them.